Joe Brewer at the Rockridge Institute just posted an interesting analysis of the energy debate in this country. Even though one finds a lot of rhetorical similarities between conservative and progressive approaches the problem of energy, the underlaying frames — their hidden assumptions and values — differ greatly. The post correctly identifies biofuels as an extremely revealing issue in the debate: blanket support for them indicates a lack of concern for the long-term livability of the planet.
The post discusses at length the current preoccupation with fuel rather than energy, which is something that even we in the progressive movement are often guilty of (note: cars running on hydrogen produced by coal-fired power plants would emphatically not represent an improvement). Brewer also suggests that words map onto different meanings at different points along the political spectrum. To many, he says, the word “sustainability” means the ability to sustain our way of life exactly as it is, by any means necessary (exhibit A: the ridiculous conservative backlash against the anti-sprawl movement). “Alternative” energy sources might include the environmental suicide that is coal-to-liquid technology. While I’d like to think that most people who are concerned about the environment aren’t quite so clueless, I could definitely be wrong.
Rockridge has a lot of ideas that they hope progressives will find useful in framing national debate; check out their new book, Thinking Points, available here in PDF format.